Meet Michelle Wright, Founder & Director, mishfit

How did you become a PT?

I originally trained as a primary school teacher and I was not sporty at all. I took time off work when my daughter was born and when she was 2 years old, my husband and I immigrated to Melbourne from the UK. It was a tough year. We bought a house, renovated it, I got pregnant, my husband left me for his “new” girlfriend of 6 weeks and then I had my son. I was a single mother, going through a divorce with no family, very few friends and no support circles.

A friend from the UK came and stayed with me for 6 weeks when my son was born to give me a hand. Every day she said, “what are we going to do for exercise today?” Exercise enabled me to get strong both mentally and physically again. The community at my local YMCA became my friends and it really did change my life. Going back to the inactive life of teaching was simply not an option. So when my son was 2 years old, I re-trained as a Fitness Professional. My goal was to be a Body Pump Instructor.

Tell us about mishfit

I loved training my clients, but I was also harboring a secret. At 34, I was suffering incontinence. I started to get really paranoid, especially when I was on stage. I finally got the courage up (I thought I was the only young woman to leak) to go to my doctor, who she sent me to Royal Women’s Hospital to see a Women’s Health physiotherapist. What she told me forever changed the course of my life.She said that my exercise routine was causing me to leak and that if I continued my uterus would prolapse.
My response was: “what is a prolapse?” I had never even heard the word and no one at the gym or during my fitness qualifications had mentioned pelvic floor. What I did know was that I could not give up exercise. Exercise was not only my profession, exercise kept my depression away.

From that moment on, I was determined to learn as much as I could and heal myself, with exercise. I started to share with my clients about what I was experiencing and asking them about their pelvic floor and it was at this point that I realised what a huge epidemic incontinence and prolapse* is.

The relationship that I created with my Women’s Health phsyio and the program that I wrote educating women on how to include their pelvic floor became the basis of my business, mishfit.

I franchised mishfit 6 years ago and last year released an updated postnatal training program – EVEolution as a licence program, so gyms and PTs can use the it in their own business without having to outlay for a franchise or change their own marketing and branding. I believe that this is the most holistic training program available for PTs today to truly serve their female clients.

What was your motivation behind establishing the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit?

I was frustrated at the lack of information given to fitness professionals about the different training needs for women. Women not only have a monthly hormone cycle that impacts of muscle function, but also larger hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy, postnatal and menopause. Sixty three per cent of a fitness professional’s average client base are females, yet few trainers and instructors are truly catering to their needs, instead opting to prescribe them a ‘standard’ program that was probably historically designed for men. When you overlay the large number of women experiencing incontinence and prolapse, then you can be sure that many, many women are either suffering in silence or finding it all to hard and become inactive.

All of this can easily be changed if fitness professionals were upskilled to ask the right questions, and make (usually) simple modifications to truly cater to their clients.

The Women’s Health and Fitness Summit is not just for women. It is for anyone who works with women. It is also a great place to network with Allied Health professionals, who are on the look out to partner with fitness professionals who “get” this stuff. Attend, up-skill and be proud!

What are the biggest fitness issues / obstacles facing women today?

Three simple changes could radically improve the way women are trained, keeping them continent and potentially injury free:

  1. Checking for diastasis (the splitting of the abdominal muscles which happens to the majority of women during pregnancy)
  2. Asking about incontinence / providing pelvic floor safe alternatives if a client told her trainer about knee/lower back injury
  3. Understanding the role of hormones in a woman’s training regime

A wonderful side effect of exercise is improved aesthetic for the body, but youth, body size and athleticism are not necessarily key indicators of health. I think more women would be motivated to exercise if there was a greater diversity of images and we had a bigger focus on health, rather than weight loss.

What motivates you to continue your career with such passion?

I love being part of an industry that makes lives better and makes people feel better. And we all know exercise, makes you feel better. With just a little awareness, more questioning and some education / up skilling, I would not have experienced the shame of wetting my pants when I worked out. I am motivated to lift the cone of silence that exists around childbirth, pelvic pain, incontinence and prolapse. The more people who join in this conversation, the more we will see change and really create positive change for all our clients.

What would you say to PTs just starting out?

Don’t swim in the red. Gyms and PT’s are all fighting for the 18% of the population that go to the gym. Want to guarantee your career? Find a group of people who are not being catered for and focus on them. Educate yourself. Learn from reputable educators. Think outside the square.

Visit the mishfit website for more information.